Campaigners vow to carry on fighting after decision to replace St Clare's Hospice
Campaigners have pledged to carry on fighting following a decision by health bosses to overhaul end-of-life care in South Tyneside.
Health chiefs approved plans for a new palliative care model for the borough and a new hospice-style facility for patients on September 24.
This includes four dedicated ‘home from home’ end-of-life beds at Haven Court, within the grounds of South Tyneside District Hospital, alongside pumping extra resources into community palliative services.
The facility would partly replace the service provided by Jarrow’s former St Clare’s Hospice, which closed down in early 2019 after collapsing into insolvency.
Campaigners have previously fought to return services to the hospice site at Primrose Hill, with a 13,669-signature ‘People’s Petition’ produced.
Although the governing body of South Tyneside’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have agreed to press ahead with the plans, campaigners have said they are not finished yet.
“I’m really proud of what we have done so far,“ said former nurse Kay Smith, who was in London earlier this month to help hand the petition on the issue over to Parliament.
“But we have stumbled at the first hurdle. They have made the decision but we’re not finished.
“We have to just keep going with this and put the pressure on the CCG and see where it takes us. Public opinion needs to count.”
CCG bosses intend to fund the new ‘spoke and hub’ model with an annual investment of £1.5million.
This includes enhanced support for those who choose to die at home, extra choice for patients and a ‘quiet and dignified setting’ at Haven Court.
However, South Tyneside’s MPs are still unconvinced about moving services to the hospital site.
Jarrow MP Kate Osborne said: “Although I welcome that a palliative care facility is returning to South Tyneside, I’m extremely disappointed by the decision the CCG has made to not return palliative care to the site of the former St Clare’s Hospice.
“I have campaigned relentlessly for palliative care to be re-established in Primrose Hill.
“I believe that with the support from the public shown by the petition and the right plan in place, Primrose Hill was the ideal setting for a palliative care hub in South Tyneside.
“The tireless efforts from campaigners over the last 18 months or so has been exemplary and they have put their point across loud and clear.
“I fear that public feeling has been ignored and that many people will feel let down by this decision.”
Ms Osborne added: “It was clear to see that the St Clare’s Hospice site held a place in a lot of people’s hearts across South Tyneside, and it’s very sad and unfortunate to hear of these developments today.”
South Shields MP, Emma Lewell-Buck, also raised similar concerns.
“I can’t see any evidence that the CCG have taken into account the strength of public feeling here, it’s the same as the story over the hospital changes,” she said.
“It’s about time that public bodies were accountable to the public they serve and this goes back to the health reorganisations put in by the Tories where they have put untold power in the hands of very few people and given them the choice to not listen to local communities.
“The demand is already there [in the borough] for more than four beds, that’s why people were petitioning for it not to be at Haven Court and for it to be back on the St Clare’s site.”
She added: “I have been in Haven Court quite a lot, it is not the right environment for palliative care.
“Palliative care needs peace, quiet, comfort and tranquillity and Haven Court is not the right place for that.”
Health chiefs have said they will review the bed capacity at Haven Court, subject to future demand, and are also exploring a range of extra services.
This includes physio and occupational therapies, complementary therapies, counselling and a chaplaincy service.